Now Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wild. For forty wilderness days and nights he was tested by the Devil. He ate nothing during those days, and when the time was up he was hungry. The Devil, playing on his hunger, gave the first test: “Since you’re God’s Son, command this stone to turn into a loaf of bread.” Jesus answered by quoting Deuteronomy: “It takes more than bread to really live.” For the second test he led him up and spread out all the kingdoms of the earth on display at once. Then the Devil said, “They’re yours in all their splendor to serve your pleasure. I’m in charge of them all and can turn them over to whomever I wish. Worship me and they’re yours, the whole works.”
Jesus refused, again backing his refusal with Deuteronomy: “Worship the Lord your God and only the Lord your God. Serve him with absolute single-heartedness.” For the third test the Devil took him to Jerusalem and put him on top of the Temple. He said, “If you are God’s Son, jump. It’s written, isn’t it, that ‘he has placed you in the care of angels to protect you; they will catch you; you won’t so much as stub your toe on a stone’?” “Yes,” said Jesus, “and it’s also written, ‘Don’t you dare tempt the Lord your God.’” That completed the testing. The Devil retreated temporarily, lying in wait for another opportunity.
The reading from Luke 4 is our Gospel text for the first week of Lent. The Devil is attempting to tempt Jesus into forgetting who is he and what he is about by offering him three things:
Jesus has been fasting for 40 days and so these temptations are difficult to resist. Each time Jesus reminds the Devil of the role God plays in his life and that he is not alone. It’s a powerful piece of scripture because the temptations are ones that we can all easily succumb to, even as a Church.
As the Church we also have wants that can become temptations:
Bread: to know that we will be “fed”, be it spiritually, or even our daily bread, financial freedom
Popularity: for the world to like us again, for us to be “important” again, to be at the center of the culture
Immortality: to be promised a life where death is not a reality and we do not have contend with the difficult questions that are before us
At our January Presbytery meeting I presented the image of the “U,” and the positive and the negative sides of it, as one way to envision change theory during our transitional journey as a Presbytery.
In the blue area we are getting into our temptations.
When change seems difficult or the call of God to a new place in ministry that we do not want to go, when the culture around us has shifted and we are afraid to enter into unknown territory…these are the times when we are most at risk of falling into temptation.
The season of Lent calls us into a time of self-examination, reattachment to God, and a renewal of our spirit. Temptation is falling away from God and beginning to believe in the lie of individualism. Worst of all, we believe that we can make up our own answers to our problems, acting like gods ourselves.
The words in the blue part of the U: binding, entrenching, denying, holding on, manipulating, disembodying, deluding, abusing…these are familiar words in a time of ecclesiastical anxiety. Temptations.
As I begin Lent, I am aware of anxiety in the Presbytery: where are we headed, what’s next, how many more things will have to change? But I am also aware that God’s Spirit is ever with us, beckoning us forward. The ultimate antidote to temptation is remembering that we are not alone, that God is with us–so that we do not fall prey to the twin myths of scarcity and aloneness.
The voice of Temptation is always looking for another opportunity to come into our lives–but Jesus is always stronger.